Tuesday, June 05, 2007

A Higher Vision

Years ago my brother walked into the kitchen of his shared home to find one of his room-mates, a dear friend who was managing the house, sobbing her heart out. She was exhausted by the amount of work she had to do to keep the house functioning and frustrated that there was so much tension, unpleasantness and lack of responsibility and ownership in the care of the house.

Despite it being a gorgeous heritage mansion in one of the fancier parts of town, it had become simply a place where people with little income came and “crashed” for a period of time. There was never enough money to comfortably manage the upkeep of the house (a situation that can easily arise with an absentee landlord) and since rent was calculated on vacancy, people would literally deduct days they were away on vacation and not pay for those days. In order to cover expenses she allowed more and more people to live in the house. This, in turn, caused conflicts over laundry, shower and cooking times.

The garden was neglected; furniture was placed higgledy-piggeldy in common areas with no thought of symmetry or design. The place had quite literally turned into a kind of rooming house where people came and went with little sense of commitment or care. The neighbours were starting to complain of the run-down appearance of the property and the city housing inspectors had been called in several times.

What soon became apparent was that there was no shared higher vision for the house, no over-riding dream and no bottom line or standard that could hold the place together. Without this set in place, the house had descended to the lowest levels. People lacked the communication tools to deal with upsets so there was little desire to work co-operatively and everyone tended to flee to the privacy of their individual rooms. It certainly wasn’t what she had hoped when she set up the shared home five years earlier.

What did they do that rainy morning so many years ago? Together, they sat down over a soothing cup of tea and created a vision of how they wanted to live. They dreamed of a place where people chose to share a home, much grander than any of them could individually afford, and live in elegance, beauty and harmony. They pictured room-mates who would share this dream and consider it their own home and not merely a temporary place to crash until something better came along.

When they raised the standard from “cheap place to live” to “elegant home” they created a higher vision. They began to attract new room-mates who also wanted to live in an elegant, orderly and harmonious home. With the shift in energy and intention, people began to be more committed and they found fewer turnovers and people choosing to stay for years rather than months. The longer people stayed, the more ownership they felt in the home; the more ownership they felt, the more they were likely to invest time, care and effort in maintaining this higher vision. In the next few years, the rooming house turned into a truly “conscious home”.